The key to successful change? Bravery

kimmcallisterIt’s normal to fear or even hate change, but I’ve surprised myself this month by realising I love change.

I’ve partly, and temporarily, moved to Aberdeen from Glasgow, together with my 22 month old, because my husband was offered a six-month secondment. The easy thing to do would have been to turn it down, stay in Glasgow and continue the familiar pattern of work, nursery, family helping out, but we decided we’d take on the challenge. It made financial sense and the adventure appealed to us, having moved to Switzerland together ten years ago for one of the best years of our lives.

I think a huge change is actually easier to deal with than a series of little changes. Starting up a business and then having your first baby a year later means living change on a daily basis. I’ve often felt overwhelmed, lost and completely out of control. But I’ve made it so far.

A huge change like moving city and finding a whole new social circle is easier, I think, because of my different mindset. Starting afresh, with no clutter in a new house, is so liberating. I’m filling my days with the important things: playgroup, the gym and meeting people. Twitter has been wonderful for opening doors and Google has been invaluable for checking out parks, shops and attractions. Because my work has to be condensed into the two and a half days I’m in Glasgow, I’m productive and focused.

The downside is that I’ve had to turn down some work that I would otherwise have loved to do. Even that’s been a good lesson, though, as I’m guilty of taking on too much, packing too much in and then sacrificing the important things to make sure I deliver what I’ve promised.

Interestingly, and perhaps because of the time of year, this theme of change seems to be following me around. I met up with some old colleagues for lunch last week, who have both changed roles. One has achieved a dream of his, by landing a job on the business desk of a major broadsheet. He saw a tweet advertising the fact they were recruiting and decided to reply. He grabbed an opportunity that could easily have slipped by unnoticed and now he’s facing his own new adventure.

My other lunch buddy has landed a big promotion and I’m happy for her, as she’s one of the hardest-working, most professional journalists I know. She deserves the recognition (even if she’s playing it down!).

I’ve realised that the key to successful change seems to be bravery. If you’re bold enough to take the step, fortune will favour you. This very philosophy came up while I was chatting to a client for whom I write a series of blogs. She was talking about the culture within a company and how an individual functions within it. Her retail consultancy works with the really big, FTSE 100 companies, all of which have their own culture. Sometimes they ask her and her team to help to change it and occasionally it can be a mammoth task.

As someone who has personal experience of working in a role where I was not supported and where I felt increasingly like I was ‘walking through treacle’ as she put it, I asked ‘how can you change it’? By being brave and by listening to those around you, was the reply.

Listening. What a simple skill. I have always been guilty of getting so caught up in my own responsibilities and deadlines that I miss things. I’m sure a lot of people are guilty of that kind of self-absorption. If we’d only listen to the opportunities life is trying to give us, we’d be able to make the change. If my old colleague hadn’t been listening he’d have missed that tweet. If my husband and I hadn’t listened to our instinct we might have turned down this wonderful move.

The inescapable fact is that nothing stays the same. I find that a comfort when things are difficult, “it won’t be like this forever” and a motivator when things are easy, “let’s prepare for the next challenge”.

After all, isn’t it better to surf the wave than get dragged along the shingle?

Kim McAllister is a PR & social media consultant.

2 Comments on The key to successful change? Bravery

  1. I like the way you have brought listening in as a useful skill if you want things to change. I agree that the better we listen the more likely we are to be aware of possibilities and opportunities that are out there. Too bad so many of us are not good at it.

    If you had not persuaded me before about change, your last sentence clinched it. Rather be surfing the wave any day.

  2. KAREN FINLAYSON // February 5, 2013 at 4:42 pm // Reply

    Kim, your honesty and energy in this article are refreshing. Thanks for the reminder about listening, whether it’s listening to others or listening to our instincts – so easily forgotten! And best wishes to you as you balance your professional and domestic lives, never easy but worth the perseverance.

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